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Jeff Sessions' Latest Lame Excuse for Blocking Medical Marijuana Research

The attorney general claims that approving new producers of cannabis might violate anti-drug treaties.

Alex Edelman/dpa/picture-alliance/NewscomAlex Edelman/dpa/picture-alliance/NewscomYesterday U.S. senators asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to explain why the Justice Department continues to block research into the medical uses of cannabis. More specifically, Wednesday's hearing marks the second time in the last year that senators have confronted Sessions about his reported refusal to license new producers of cannabis for research.

Scientists who want to study marijuana in the United States currently have to obtain it from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which relies on a single contractor at the University of Mississippi and has long been faulted for mediocre quality and a meager selection. Just as he did in October 2017, when Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) first pressed him in public about the issue, Sessions claimed to be working toward approving new applicants while offering a flimsy reason why his office has done nothing in more than a year. This time Sessions claimed approving new cannabis manufacturers could violate the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. From Tom Angell at Marijuana Moment:

"We are moving forward and we will add fairly soon, I believe, the paperwork and reviews will be completed and we will add additional suppliers of marijuana under the controlled circumstances," [Sessions] said during an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee.

In his answers, Sessions indicated that he thought opening up research could put the U.S. at risk of violating international drug treaties.

The "treaty requires certain controls in that process," he said, adding that in his view, the "previous proposal violated that treaty."

This is hogwash. When the Drug Enforcement Administration announced in 2016 that it planned to approve new producers of research cannabis, the agency said it was doing so "within the framework of the Controlled Substances Act and U.S. treaty obligations." That treaty is the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which requires that cannabis production facilities be licensed, regulated, and secured, and that signatories "prevent the accumulation, in the possession of drug manufacturers, of quantities of drugs in excess of those required for the normal conduct of business, having regard to the prevailing market conditions."

Does Sessions not trust the DEA to approve only legitimate applicants operating secure facilities? Something tells me this isn't really about treaty compliance. I suspect that if no one were asking him questions, if he had not received letters from more than two dozen members of Congress demanding an explanation, Sessions would never lift the hold he has put on applications from would-be growers.

The latest such letter came from Sens. Hatch and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and it highlights the root of the problem: The Justice Department should not be in the business of policing medical research or the development of medical products. From the letter:

As of August 11, 2016, 354 individuals and institutions were approved by the DEA to conduct expansive research on marijuana and its related components. Those researchers needed access to a federally compliant expanded product line—they needed to study different types of marijuana and across various delivery mechanisms. Accordingly, a diverse, DEA-vetted market of suppliers of research-grade marijuana would be critical. Since the DEA's Federal Register Notice on August 12, 2016, at least 25 manufacturers have formally applied to produce federally-approved research-grade marijuana.

I've spoken to half a dozen of those applicants, and none of them has heard from the DEA in almost a year. This obstruction is outrageous. There are dozens of recreational marijuana products available to tens of millions of Americans that researchers can't legally study in human subjects because they weren't grown at the University of Mississippi.

As a result, we risk surrendering the biggest clinical discoveries to scientists in other countries, where growing cannabis is not treated like necromancy. Israel is decades ahead of us on this front. And as Mark Kleiman notes today (and Jacob Sullum explored in an incredible recent feature), now is the perfect time to be studying whether cannabis can substitute for prescription drugs in the treatment of pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. But it's difficult to conduct those trials with a single supplier whose product is half a century behind the most advanced commercial production science.

Photo Credit: Alex Edelman/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    In his answers, Sessions indicated that he thought opening up research could put the U.S. at risk of violating international drug treaties.

    Exactly what you want to hear from a GOP administration.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Hey, Trump voters wanted globalist cuck swampdwellers, and that's what they got.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Coolidge voters beat them to it. The 1925 Geneva Opium convention was a price-fixing conspiracy that sought to ban weed so Bayer and Naarden could charge more for smack and coke. The US delegation saw through the fraud and stormed out in a huff. In 1937, beer and liquor excise tax revenue failed to recover after the 18th Amendment was repealed. The 16th Amendment still murdered and plundered at will. But only then did the Kleptocracy ban weed as a sop tossed to the liquor lobby and Klan. That ban, like the Harrison Act before it, was also disguised as a tax.

  • LarryA||

    It's almost like Sessions really doesn't want marijuana legalized, so he's telling Congress to buzz off.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You know what's better than tiptoeing around the repeal of unconstitutional drug laws?

  • Shirley Knott||

    Drugs?

  • soflarider||

    Growing your own?

  • John||

    http://hotair.com/archives/201.....n-hostage/

    Alfie Evans' father says he is being held hostage by the hospital. Isn't socialized medicine grand?

    Funny, reason covers the shit out of the odd foreign story like the Russian punk band that got thrown in prison. Yet, when the UK murders a child in the name of the greater good, there isn't a peep out of Reason. You would think the state effectively kidnapping a child to prevent his parents from getting him to proper medical care and in the process murdering him would have a libertarian angle.

  • Don't look at me.||

    You must not get invited to many cocktail parties. Priorities dude.

  • John||

    Reason obsesses over the dumbest hipster bullshit. Electric scooters and Uber are a big fucking deal. The British government murdering a child? Not so much.

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    It's a fair point. The most serious news coming out of Venezuela can't possibly be bitcoin. There are big, serious stories going on in the world. Britches did a good job with the electric scooter thing, and yet this feels just a bit like libertarian fluff.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    I have to agree with the Johnster here.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I wonder why they aren't doing this one. Because they did cover the last such issue. UK pulled this, what a year ago or so? Reason talked about it then.

  • SIV||

    Pussy hats

  • Hank Phillips||

    What's this? Did some woman take a birth control pill and twist Pope John's panties all out of shape?

  • DajjaI||

    frequent drug testing and the promise of a short jail stay

    Wow. Just a few years ago, Kleiman was pushing 'swift but certain' punishment for drug or alcohol use. The time they are a-changin'!

  • John||

    Tiny lab grown brains raise ethical questions.

    http://www.npr.org/sections/he.....-questions

    Looks like there is hope for Hihn and Tony.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Thoughtful commentary for some, tiny, labgrown brains for others.

  • John||

    We can build a better Tony. If we can put a man on the Moon, we can get Tony's IQ into triple digits.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Tony's not low IQ, he's just low-information.

  • John||

    In fairness yes. Hihn, on the other hand, is legitimately and epically stupid. Tony is not so much dumb but close-minded, pig ignorant and hateful.

  • Tony||

    I just hate hypocrisy, and thus by the property of identity, you.

  • John||

    You hate everything that conflicts with your politics Tony. Your politics make you miserable and hateful. But since you derive so much of your self-worth from your politics, you can't let them go even though they make you miserable.

  • Tony||

    The difference between you and me is that when President Kamala Harris is sworn into office, I will not be following you around with a teaspoon collecting your tears. I will feel genuinely bad for your suffering. Cross my heart.

  • Mr. Gus||

    ...that's not what happens, Past Me.

    I mean, yeah, I know, SPOILERS, but that's not what happens.

  • John||

    I won't be crying when Kamala Harris becomes President Tony because I will be having too much fun riding my flying pig and hanging out with my new girlfriend Kathryn Winnick.

    And Tony, you were a total smug asshole when Obama won in 2008. You are incapable of any sort of introspection or doing anything but trying to stick your boot on people's faces.

    And frankly, I didn't care that Obama won. Politics are not that important in the long run. But what was remarkable was, you were still angry and bitter. Even when you got what you wanted you were still a nasty, angry person. That is what having hateful nasty politics will do to you.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    John, there is a reason people call you Red Tony.

  • John||

    Yes, Chipper. It is because they get tired of losing arguments to me and have nothing else to say. There is absolutely a reason. One of these days I will give up my vice of picking on stupid people. But it won't be anytime soon.

  • Mr. Gus||

    but...but i'm red tony

  • John||

    We are all Red Tony at some point Gus.

  • Mr. Gus||

    Wait, you're all Past Mes sent from the future or Alternate Dimension Mes or Future Mes sent from the past?

  • Tony||

    Running away from a thread when someone utterly smacks you down on your giant pile of bullshit is not winning an argument.

  • Edward Norton's Hulk||

    It took you a long time to admit that Tony.

  • John||

    In best Boston accent

    We choose to grow Tony a brain!! We choose to grow Tony a brain in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too

  • Shirley Knott||

    Ask not what your brain can do for you, ask what you can do for your brain?

    The answer is still drugs.

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    Hey now. I can tie my shoes right best three out of five, regular.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Hey Hihn, Molotov and Ribbentrop both say you're a doodoohead. Good work! The next beer is on me!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Does this mean that Jeff Sessions won't be able to cite any research that suggests Marijuana use is Harmful when he next wants to claim Marijuana use is harmful?

  • LarryA||

    Of course not. He'll just use the "Everybody Knows" standard.

  • Tony||

    Someone slip that man some weed-infused succotash or whatever it is he eats.

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    It's southern food, so whatever it is it's surely deep-fried or low-simmered, and delicious. The bastard.

  • Eidde||

    The President can always denounce the drug treaties (Ctrl F for "denounce"). Denounce by July and they expire at the end of the year.

    So using the drug treaties as an excuse is like locking yourself in a cage, keeping the key, but claiming you're imprisoned against your will.

  • Eidde||

    While libertarians may not like this, there's always the Bolivian Option.

    Denounce the drug treaty, then re-ratify it with a reservation allowing whatever specific drug you want legal. (In Bolivia's case it was chewing coca leaves.)

  • Hank Phillips||

    Bolivians DARE to refrain from shooting people over plant leaves? MURDERERS!

  • John||

    And the drug treaties cover a lot more things than marijuana. The US violating them with regard to marijuana doesn't invalidate them in regards to other drugs. More importantly, countries violate treaties all of the time. It only matters insofar as the other countries are willing to take action in response. And does anyone believe the rest of the world is going to take on the US because it violated some drug treaties by allowing a few new producers of pot?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    And does anyone believe the rest of the world is going to take on the US

    They might stop coming here.

    Oh wait...

  • Eidde||

    Like I said, Bolivian Option for those whose drug-war reservations apply only to marijuana.

  • Eidde||

    It would be far more candid to just say "(bad word) you" to the treaty regime and pull out than to remain a party to it while disregarding it.

  • John||

    Not necessarily. You just abide by the parts you like.

  • Eidde||

    I know that's common practice, but it would be more of a "(bleep) you" to the UN to officially say to (bleep) with your (bleep) treaty.

  • Eidde||

    Seriously, do you want to award the moral high ground to the UN, and even worse, to the drug warriors?

    "OMG America is violating her pledged word and allowing the evil marijuana! The law is the law!"

  • John||

    Seriously, are you dumb enough to think the moral high ground matters?

  • Tony||

    "Seriously, are you dumb enough to think the moral high ground matters?"

    John's motto.

  • Mr. Gus||

    It does. People always want to be on the "good" side rather than the "evil" side. Convincing them your side is the good side is a necessary step.

    Plus, pedophile enablers shouldn't be given the moral high ground.

  • John||

    Yes everyone thinks they are on the moral high ground. That is why you don't have to worry about getting it. Your side is going to claim you have it no matter what.

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    This is why I think it oughtn't be enough that we can convince ourselves we're in the right - it doesn't appear to be difficult to do. We should challenge ourselves to an accomplishment worth being proud of: convincing the other guy we're in the right. And saying we'll shoot anyone in the face who disagrees doesn't count.

  • Hank Phillips||

    That nixes the DemoGOP approach right there. There was a thing on Dilbert about hate versus ideas. Hate versus ideas is the difference between the Libertarian Party and Molotov looter Dems flanked by ku-klux conservative Ribbentrop Republicans.

  • Eidde||

    "Seriously, are you dumb enough to think the moral high ground matters?"

    I simply don't see the benefit of staying a party to a treaty and ignoring it, when you can pull out of the treaty with fairly short notice.

    I would have thought this was an easy case, with the moral high ground only a Presidential signature on a document away from being achieved.

    What's the down side f honestly repudiating a treaty you don't want to obey? What's the realpolitic benefit from disobeying a treaty which is easily escaped from?

  • Eidde||

    I think the reason the Senate rubber-stamps so many of these treaties is simply because of a cynical belief that we won't actually be expected to obey them.

    So they just go ahead and ratify any treaty which gives them or key constituents those warm fuzzy feelz.

    If our attitude is to respect our treaty obligations, then Senators might get their heads out of their ass and vote no once in a while, simply because everyone takes such things more seriously.

    What is the purpose of joining a treaty, if not to attempt in good faith to observe it? Do you want me to go all Godwin?

  • I'm Here, for MOAR Hihn||

    If only Hihn's dad had pulled out.

    Yes, that was a personal attack

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "Because I am a snake."

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    Oi Nardz!

    "Therefore the master race engages in the creation of the notion of "good" as a characteristic applicable to themselves in order to assert the supremacy of their power in relation to the other. Consequently, "bad" is simply a designation for those who have not achieved the same extent of power, prestige, or nobility. Nietzsche's critical observation in the master's distinction of "good and bad" is that "the judgment 'good' does not emanate from those to whom goodness is shown! Instead it has been 'the good' themselves, meaning the noble, who saw and judged their actions as good in contrast to everything lowly."

    This is fantastic stuff. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Rich||

    I've spoken to half a dozen of those applicants, and none of them has heard from the DEA in almost a year.

    "I was going to reply, but then I got, uh, ... taken aside by the AG!"

  • ||

    Hiring Jeff Sessions was a sop to the establishment. And of course, it was a bad idea. The Democratic establishment hates you. It's very obvious. And only slightly less obvious that the Republican Establishment does too.

  • frankania||

    MJ is easy to grow. Why don't the labs simply GROW some plants and experiment with the plants? Don't even talk to bureaucrats!

  • Hank Phillips||

    Beauregard's prosecutors, politicos and cops are having a field day selling confiscated weed and sniffing confiscated coke off the asses of hookers on probation or out on bond. They don't call it ass-set forfeiture for nothing, I'll have you know.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Go back to that tree and leave the populace alone.

  • ||

    This guy is the Apotheosis of Douche Nozzles.

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